Rita and the Young Researchers

There are predestined meetings in life, those which sooner or later will happen because it is written in the stars.

This is how people who are different and far from each other find themselves at some stage blended in one single matrix which immediately becomes a source of new energy thanks to a powerful catalyst: in our case science.
It was indeed science that put together three entities linked by the same passion for basic and applied research as well as by the same love for mankind.
We refer to the Rita Levi Montalcini Foundation, the Giorgio Brunelli Foundation and Dompé Pharmaceuticals.
Rita Levi Montalcini devoted her whole life as a scientist to the study of the nerve growth factor for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1986.
Giorgio Brunelli, after a successful career in orthopeadic, plastic and reconstructive surgery, on the eve of his retirement, took on the greatest challenge: defeating paraplegia and tetraplegia, that is managing to cure the traumatic and non-traumatic lesions of the Spinal Cord.
Sergio Dompé, head of one of the main italian pharmaceutical and biotechnological organisations continually committed to the development of innovative drugs, decided to focus the research on finding new molecules for diseases that are rare or lack treatment, still continuing to ensure aimed therapeutic solutions in reference areas.
These are the players who give life to an outstanding italian story made up of intelligence, foresight, deep love for science and for mankind. A story worth telling.
Prof. Rita Levi Montalcini, afflicted with an advanced form of maculopathy, knew well the serious handicap of low vision and trusted in the neurotrophic power of the NGF to cure eye pathologies like, for instance, neurotrophic keratitis, a serious and rare degenerative eye disease (one out of five thousand people suffers from it), caused by a reduced innervation of the cornea with its ulceration and perforation leading to a consequent loss of vision. The cornea is one of the most innervated organs of the human body and it keeps its integrity thanks to its widespread innnervation. Treating the corneal pathology with the ngf represented the most functional solution to a complex problem. The appearance of the Dompé Group, in a phase when experimental and clinical observations were being carried out regarding the use of the NGF of murine origin in the neurotrophic keratitis which had given encouraging results, marked a turning point in the cure of pigmented keratitis. And not just that.
Indeed Dompé, by taking over Anabasis SRL, an italian biotech company specialised in the research in the field of eye diseases, succeeded in developing a stable process suitable for the production of the recombinant human NGF (rhNGF) on an industrial scale. So, for the first time in over 50 years from the detection of the NGF, a company managed to value the discovery and to get close to the marketing of the product. The researchers from Anabasis SRL have indeed got results of extraordinary clinical importance, showing that the ngf has a therapeutic potential for the pathologies affecting both the front part of the eye (neurotrophic keratitis, dry eye syndrome) and the rear part (retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma). To get the eye drops we shall have to wait the whole year 2015. In the President's office in Milan, among the beautiful family photos, one showing him with Prof. Rita Levi Montalcini stands out. The same smile open to the future, sharing thoughts and emotions that are also apparent in the numerous photos showing Giorgio Brunelli and the Nobel Laureate together in Brescia at the conferences organised by the foundation Prof. Rita Levi Montalcini was the honorary president of until 2012. Only three years have passed since Rita's passing but it seems an eternity as she has left a huge void.
We all remember her with immense gratitude and affection and we all owe her something for what she gifted us with which will always be with us in terms of commitment, dedication, perseverance, optimism, selflessness, generosity, humility, yearning for knowledge.
Thank you Rita for what you gave profusely to all those who have been lucky enough to cross your path and travel with you a short part of your long journey.
I am sure that if you were still here you would be happy to know that sergio dompe has arranged to award an important cash Prize to the best work in the field of neuroscience which will be presented by a researcher younger than 35 years of age at the International Symposium organised by the Brunelli Foundation in Brescia, a place you loved visiting, above all, to meet the youngsters whom you always had a lot of faith in for a better world. Dr. Giuseppe Nisticò, general manager of EBRI, the Institute you strongly wanted in order to oppose the escape of our bright scientists to foreign countries, will be present at the event and will give a talk about the work carried out by the institute so far and about future projects.

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